A Book for Chimps
Good to Great by Jim Collins is one of the best books on leadership. Collins not only engages the reader with the simplicity and highly applicable nature of his writing, but also supports his theories and leadership principles with real data and research. Although Collins is addressing companies the application goes all the way to the individual leader. Each chapter title is a different principle. Collins is not trying to hide the keys of differentiating “good” from “great”, instead is found in plain sight. The complexity of the material is not in the information but in the application.
Collins begins by offering his thesis: “good is the enemy of great”. In chapter 1 He throughly explains his process and plan for demonstrating his thesis which he refers to as the “black box”. Then is following chapters he walks the reader through a very simple, researched, process. This process not only proves his thesis but offers any reader the steps to take any organization from “good” to great”. The process begins with the leader (level 5 leadership), then moves to team (right people, right seat, right bus), then confront the brutal facts of the organization (Stockdale Paradox), then walk through “3 circles” or filters to define the Hedgehog Concept, commit to a culture of discipline, don’t ignore technology, finally all will come together when the “fly wheel” catches and move the organization from good to great.
First I love this book! I have a first edition hardback with translucent cover, which I purchase in 2001. Then in 2005 purchased the monograph for Social Sectors. I have devoured the contents; I have organizationally structured my church upon its’ key principles; and it is a required read for all past, present, or future staff. With that stated, I could easily write my analysis for days but I won’t.
I want to focus my analysis on one key component, which is apart of my dissertation research, the Stockdale Paradox. My dissertation is on the management of leadership tension and how it is key to organizational and individual success. Tension management is what the Stockdale Paradox is all about. It about managing and not ignoring the facts. It is about valuing candor, confronting brutal facts, striving to understand before you are understood, and embracing debate for the ultimate good. Collins refers to this practice a “powerful psychological duality.” This duality are two points of the frame work that great organizations stretch their tension between: reality and faith.
The Stockdale Paradox states: “That one retains faith that you will prevail in the end regardless of the difficulties and at the same time you confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they may be.” Admiral Jim Stockdale explains that those who did not make it out the the Hanoi Hilton were the “optimists”. Optimism is typically a good thing and a common trait of a leader and winner, but only when contrasted with reality (brutal facts). Without reality it is pie in the sky thinking and it is absent of tension. Stockdale states that optimism without the tension of reality ends with death of a broken heart. Therefore tension is necessary for survival and success. Without tension there is ultimately a death of something – a dream, vision, organization, etc. Therefore, with a correct management of tension between the reality of today and faith of what will be, greatness can be achieved.
9 responses to “A Book for Chimps”
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Hey AC! Great to be reading your writing again. I have never heard of the Stockade Paradox until I read this book. Bravo, for getting on board so early with these principals. I wish I would have read this book when you did.
I agree with you that holding tension together is key to great leadership and success in life. What have you experienced is the best way to teach people in our churches this principal? It seems to me that so many Christians in America actually run from tension. How do we make tension attractive?
I think the Stockdale Paradox is difficult for the faith community because we often times confuse optimism with faith. They are not interchangeable. I think we as leaders must confront the brutal facts of the reality of injustice, inequality, and general lack of fairness in our teaching. Instructing as Jesus did, “in this world you will have trouble, but take comfort you will overcome.” As for tension, I think this is a leadership issue. It’s something that we need to teach leaders and explain to followers.
That’s a great topic for research! I’ve learned that in church ministry, pastors fail to confront the brutal facts of reality because they either work alone (no team) or they are involved in cultural or political dynamics that discourage honest dialogue. In addition, many Christians function under the common misconception that Christians have to be nice, therefore criticizing is perceived as being worldly. What happened to “speaking the truth in love”?
I have noticed in my ministry experience that it is helpful to focus on building the organization towards a common vision. In that way we can evaluate things more objectively and avoid making people feel attacked. We have changed so many things since I started this journey, and Good to Great has been a significant catalyst for these changes.
Thank you for the idea of making the book a mandatory read for all future staff. I had not thought about that. I’ll borrow this idea from you. Thanks!
Thanks Pablo, reading and commenting on my blog!
Thanks for such pointed and insightful writing from your perspective. I agree with your evaluation that without their being tension that the good church will continue to be the good church for years and thus the loss or death of a dream. What could have been can show up down the street…
Within your team and church there is a driving force and passion to be great. One of the express values is excellence in everything that you do. I believe that is one of your core values. What would be number 2 and d3 for you?
So looking forward to London and spending time living life together.
Hedge hog principle
Right people on Right seat, on right bus
How interesting that the Stockdale Paradox plays a role in your dissertation research on management of leadership tension and how it is key to organizational and individual success. Can you elaborate a little more on how organizations stretch their tension between reality and faith? Thanks.
As I read your analysis I found myself thinking about being an optimist. Then you quoted the Admiral, saying optimism (alone) can (in essence) break our hearts. Can you say something about the deepening or maturing of optimism given by the reality of brutal facts? Is that what the reality check does: somehow add strength to optimism?
A related question: you state: “the management of leadership tension and how it is key to organizational and individual success… Tension management is what the Stockdale Paradox is all about. It about managing and not ignoring the facts. It is about valuing candor…”
Is the tension you address between individuals, or is it between optimism and brutal facts? Does tension somehow pull the person or organization forward? Perhaps I’m asking you to insert your dissertation into this blog post now.
The pitch was in your sweet spot and you knocked this one out of the park! Home run, center field!!!
The Stockdale Paradox states: “That one retains faith that you will prevail in the end regardless of the difficulties and at the same time you confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they may be.” When you wrote this it prompted a new fire in me! It may become a series!!!!!
This is a great job on one of my favorite books!